Amidst calls for transparency and accountability…

AMIDST calls for transparency and accountability in the TT Football Association’s (TTFA) Home of Football project, Sports Minister Shamfa Cudjoe yesterday stressed that Government’s only role in the enterprise was “simply to provide the land”.

On Monday, Cudjoe and Veron Mosengo-Oba, FIFA’s director of member associations and development for the Caribbean and Africa, joined officials from the TTFA and the Sports Company of TT (SporTT) on a site visit in Balmain, Couva. The Home of Football will include a 72-room hotel, training pitches and an entertainment centre. The sod for the project was turned in September 2017 and will be completed this year. FIFA has funded the Home of Football project to the tune of US$2.5 million.

TTFA member and president of the Veterans Footballers Foundation, Selby Browne, commenting on Newsday’s story about the site visit, wrote, “This is typical FIFA. Nothing new. Send in the troops to fully support their (supporters).”

Browne and fellow TTFA board members Keith Look Loy, Anthony Harford and Osmond Downer have repeatedly called on John-Williams and his executive to be open and transparent about the details of the project.

Look Loy has called on TTFA president David John-Williams to see information on contracts etc related to the venture and even sent the TTFA boss a pre-action protocol letter to get him to open the books to scrutiny.

Cudjoe yesterday refused to get drawn into the wrangling among TTFA members. “This is a public-private partnership where the Government’s role was to solely to provide the land (and) the TTFA and FIFA would provide the funding.”

She added, “All of those (funding) matters are taken care off by the TTFA and FIFA. Our business as Government was simply to provide the land, and we’ve done that on a 30-year lease. So, I can’t tell you as to the details of the funding arrangements because the Government is not a part of that. Our part in this whole arrangement is to provide the land, which we did.”

Browne, in a telephone interview yesterday, lauded the concept but said there still needs to be checks and balances. He said, “That’s a very good initiative for (TT) football, but you must be transparent and you must operate with proper fiscal management.”

Referring to a TTFA general meeting in March, Browne said, “A motion was moved by the membership to stop the project with immediate effect, remove the president from the project and have the TTFA board of management take charge of that project, for several reasons which included accountability, the manner in which contracts were awarded, the tendering procedure and the failure to do what is required in keeping with the TTFA constitution, a constitution which was approved by FIFA.

“That has not happened,” Browne continued. “To date, the board has no knowledge of the several requests made for documentation and the likes. Now we see what is typical of FIFA, sending their official in to legitimise what has been the failure to produce the evidence required for proper accounting and legitimacy.”